The evening of Thursday, March 3rd, brought together members of the school and March TDSN Meeting at TSBcommunity interested in knowing more of the details in the formation of Tennessee School for the Deaf, Nashville Campus. (TSDN). The 6:00 p.m. meeting saw the school’s PD Atrium fill to capacity as around 100 visitors packed the room anxious to hear and be heard.

Tracy Dunkin interpreted for the hearing impaired in attendance, which represented a good percentage of the crowd. A good number of TSB alumni and former staff also joined the current staff of the school to learn more about future plans.

After a brief explanation of the purpose for the meeting by Representative Darren Jernigan, 

 

he turned the microphone over to Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Kathleen Airhart. Dr. Airhart introduced additional members from the department and school before giving a brief history of events leading up to plans to open TSDN this fall on the TSB campus. She spoke of the residential Tennessee School for the Deaf (TSD) in Knoxville (East Tennessee) and the day-use TSD in Jackson (West Tennessee) in laying out the need for a regional center to be opened in Middle Tennessee.

Dr. Airhart told how families in our area, in need of hearing services for their children, began contacting department personnel around 18 months ago. The search for a solution to meet the need was assigned to DOE staff Allison Gould. State Senator Gressum spoke with her about providing services for the deaf students in the Nashville area.

In Allison’s search for a solution, legislation passed by the TN State Legislature in the 1970s was discovered. Although passed, it appeared the legislation had never been enacted. Representative Jernigan has asked and received an audio archive of the legislative minutes and expressed his intention to listen to the original documentation. He was interested not only in the details of the writing but in anything reflecting the bill’s intent. The bill, as written, states:

Legal requirement of T.C.A. 49-10902(b), School for the deaf children– West Tennessee and Davidson County

There shall also be a branch school for the deaf located in Davidson County in connection with the Tennessee School for the Blind.

Knowing the value and urgency of providing hearing-related services at a young age, Dr. Airhart is eager to meet the need. Finding funds currently within the TSD budget and locating available space on the TSB campus, TSDN would be able to begin serving students in the fall without the need to immediately petition state legislature for new funds. This is key to the school being able to start up.

TSDN is slated to open as a day-only school and in its first year serve those in pre-k through 2nd grade. Although on the same campus as TSB, the two schools will operate separately, share limited facilities, and retain their own entity.

Dr. Airhart turned the meeting over to Allison Gould, who presented attendees with a power point outlining the key factors of her findings. Covered also were the department’s details for opening the school this fall. The presentation was followed up with a lengthy question and answer session. Members of both the blind and visually impaired community and those deaf and with hearing impairments were able to address their concerns.

The meeting was streamed live and is currently available on the school’s You Tube channel for those unable to attend.